D: Lambert Hillyer / 17m
Cast: Lewis Wilson, Douglas Croft, J. Carol Naish, Shirley Patterson, William Austin, Charles C. Wilson, I. Stanford Jolley
Having been pushed off the top of the Gotham City Foundation building, Batman’s fall is broken by a conveniently situated maintenance cradle. Quickly back on the roof, he and Robin capture one of Dr Daka’s henchmen, and the radium gun they were using. They take the henchman back to the Bat Cave where the threat of being left alone with numerous bats scares the man into revealng the location of one of Daka’s hideouts, a fluff joint called the House of the Open Door. Meanwhile, Dr Daka is furious that his men have lost the radium gun, but he believes that one of the staff at the Foundation might have it. He targets Linda Page and arranges for his men to kidnap her. Using their only lead, Batman and Robin head to the House of the Open Door and manage to identify the room Linda is being held in. They get in through the window, and a fight ensues, during which some deadly chemicals are released. Forced to take flight back through the window, Robin crosses a power line and makes it safely to the ground. But one of Daka’s henchmen causes an electrical surge to course through the power line, causing Batman and Linda to fall to their certain death…
With the basic set up and character introductions of Chapter 1 out of the way, Chapter 2 can get on with the job of being faster paced, packing in more incident, and properly showing off the high-waisted design of Batman’s costume. It all makes for a more enjoyable, and entertaining, episode, and one that has time to feature Alfred as being more than just a chauffeur – though at the expense of Linda, who becomes the very epitome of a damsel in distress. However, Alfred is portrayed as something of a Nervous Nellie, even though he’s keen to get involved in the action. As a secondary character, it’s good to see him given more screen time, but still, this is called Batman rather than Alfred, and this episode sees Lewis Wilson’s portly Caped Crusader and Douglas Croft’s perma-permed Robin spending equal time in and out of costume. There’s a section where they don ordinary Joe disguises as a bum and a newsboy respectively, and carry out some sleuthing; it feels like Columbia’s way of acknowledging the fact that Batman got his start in Detective Comics.
And as the chapter title suggests, there’s our first proper introduction to the Bat Cave, a bare-bones, one-room affair that reminds us of the serial’s budgetary restraints, but which does lead to the Dynamic Duo appearing inside Wayne Manor via a grandfather clock, something that would be adapted in time by the comics. It’s details like this that help keep things fascinating for fans, and shows that even though this isn’t a big budget prestige picture, it’s still something that a lot of thought has gone into. Hillyer throws off the shackles of Chapter 1 to keep things at an often breakneck speed, and even allows for a few moments where the cast actually get a chance to act (Batman’s disguise as a bum is rendered credibly by Wilson, and there’s a delightful throwaway line for Charles C. Wilson as the beleaguered police chief, Arnold). There’s drama, there’s comedy, there’s thrills and spills, and there’s a sense that, after the stodgy scene setting of the first episode, that things have gotten better and should – hopefully – continue to do so. Now how is Batman going to survive this cliffhanger…?
Rating: 8/10 – a massive improvement in quality over Chapter 1, this entry feels looser in its approach to the story, and is much, much better without the racist posturings of its predecessor; two episodes in and Batman has become a winner, lively and exciting, and having overcome the stiffness and self-consciousness that marred the performances last time round.